Leadership Skills: Tap Into Team Members’ Existing Motivation

Most leaders have the motivation process exactly backward!

For who knows how long, when you (a leader) wanted me (a follower) to commit to high performance, you and I both expected YOU to tell ME what’s in it for me to work with you.

It’s much smarter to tap into my existing motivation by asking ME to tell YOU what’s in it for me.

It’s actually kind of funny to look at the transaction from outside the habit pattern. The truth is, it’s much smarter (and a lot easier!) for you to tap into my existing — if often hidden — motivation by asking ME to tell YOU what’s in it for me.

Look at it this way:

  1. Everyone alive has hopes, dreams, and wants for herself/himself.
  2. People without any hopes, dreams, or wants are dead — they’ve ceased all motion.
  3. People who get out of bed and go to work have mentally and emotionally linked what they are doing today to their hopes, dreams and wants in a way that makes sense to them.
  4. Therefore, everyone has their own EXCELLENT reasons for investing in work projects — even if they’ve learned to deny or hide those reasons, sometimes even from themselves.
  5. So, the best way for me to serve my fellow workers is to help them uncover and focus on their OWN motivations — even if they attempt to convince me (through resistance and denial strategies) that they have none.

To that end, if I think I need to motivate others, it behooves me to ask them, “What’s in it for you to work on this project with this team?” and to keep them in the conversation until THEY come up with the personal benefits that move them into action.

The method is simple. It’s powerful. It’s responsible. Watch out!

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Practice uncovering existing motivation on yourself FIRST.

When you can see — and accept — your own intrinsic motivation, it will be much easier to see and accept others’. When faced with a task that’s not inherently motivating (like taking out the garbage, folding laundry, mowing the lawn, or emptying the dishwasher), ask yourself, “What’s in it for me to do this?”

Pursue the questioning until you find yourself moving. Note what got you going. You’ll discover much about your own motivation.

Stretch Practice

At least three times this week ask others, “What’s in it for you?” Remember, if the first answer doesn’t appear to be MOVING (i.e., energizing) to the person, feed that answer back and follow-up with, “When you get that, what does that do for you?”

Here’s a brief and flagrant example:

You: Christopher, what’s in it for you to help me with project ABC?
Me: Uh, continued employment? (Said with a slightly cynical tone, not energizing.)
You: And when you get to keep your job at this company, how does that serve you?
Me: It keeps my spouse off my back. (Again, said with a cynical tone, not energizing.)
You: And when you can keep your spouse off your back, what does that do for you?
Me: Well, I get to go fishing. (Said with a smile broadening across my face, probably energizing.)

Continue until you can both see how what the person is doing is connected to the future s/he envisions.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide. Build a responsible team (or family) and master your leadership skills with The Leadership Gift Program for Leaders.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork on 10/10/2011 01:00 am
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